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Unit plan for ages 15-18 in Geography: Internally Displaced People

Teaching Tools, 24 October 2006

© UNHCR/H.Caux
Thousands of people fled attacks on their villages and gathered under trees on the outskirts of Goz Beida, the main town in south eastern Chad.



  • To understand clearly the legal difference between a refugee and an internally displaced person
  • To understand that not all people who flee violent conflict are able to cross international borders and claim international protection as refugees
  • To understand that individual governments and the international community must ensure that internally displaced people are protected and their human rights respected


  • To encourage in the students empathy for internally displaced people who have lost their homes and belongings and whose government will not or cannot provide them protection from conflict
  • To articulate the rights of internally displaced people and the corresponding responsibilities of governments and the international community to support those rights


  • To be able to identify the similarities and differences between refugees and internally displaced people
  • To practise sensitive enquiry and reasoning skills.
  • To think critically.

LESSON 1 and 2: Who are internally displaced persons? Where are they concentrated?

Who are internally displaced people?

Where are the major concentrations of internally displaced people around the world?

Why do they become displaced?
Reinforcement of students' understanding of refugees.

Students are asked for their impressions of why, when persecuted or in danger, hundreds of thousands of people sometimes do not flee across borders, i.e. to think of reasons why these people do not become refugees.

Map work
Students examine the annotated map to see that regions afflicted with violent conflict produce internally displaced people.

Discussion of the root causes of internal displacement, starting from descriptions from the maps.
© UNHCR/P.Smith
During the 'Day of Documentation' in Ciudad Bolivar, UNHCR's Mobile Registration Unit helped the local internally displaced people apply for identification cards. Identity documents are key to gaining access to state humanitarian aid, such as health care, education and credit and bank loans.
Background reading for teachers

UNHCR, The State of the World's Refugees: Human Displacement in the New Millennium, (Oxford, OUP, 2006), Chapter 7: Internally displaced persons, pp. 153-175

The whole of Refugees magazine issue no. 141 [PDF, 1,1Mb] is devoted to the topic of internally displaced people.

Students' resources

The whole of "The World's Internally Displaced People" [PDF, 170Kb] Refugees, no. 141, 2005, pp. 16-17

LESSONS 3-4: Internal conflict and displacement around the world

Internal conflict and displacement around the world.

The great variety of circumstances under which internal displacement occurs.

Differences between refugees and IDPs.

Implications of the status of IDPs.
Teacher lecture

based on "The biggest failure of the international community" [PDF, 952Kb], Refugees, no. 141, 2005, pp. 2-19.

Review and application
Questioning and discussion to encourage students to think deeply about the status of IDPs.
© UNHCR/R.Chalasani
A UNHCR-organized group encourages internally displaced people and returnees to discuss gender-based violence in Aruni.
Ray Wilkinson, "The biggest failure of the international community" [PDF, 952Kb], Refugees, no. 141, 2005, pp. 2-19.

Violent conflict on both sides of the Chad/Sudan border has displaced tens of thousands of people. The Chad home page provides links to information about this particular humanitarian crisis where refugees and IDPs are found on both sides of an international border.

"Darfur: the challenge of protecting the internally displaced", UNHCR, The State of the World's Refugees: Human Displacement in the New Millennium, (Oxford, OUP, 2006), pp. 162-163




Forgotten No Longer?

Refugees Magazine Issue 141: Forgotten No Longer? (complete magazine, lo-res, 1.1 Mb, pdf)

FAQs on Internally Displaced People

Frequently asked questions about IDPs. [pdf, 1.3Mb]

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.4: UNHCR Sets Up Camps

With the first wave of UNHCR's air and sea operation to rush relief supplies to Timor-Leste completed, the focus is now on improving the living conditions of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) living in crowded, unsanitary makeshift camps around Dili.

Many of the 69,000 displaced in Dili have told UNHCR they prefer to stay near the makeshift sites where they feel safe. In response, UNHCR has begun searching for additional sites around these areas to clear ground, pitch tents and decongest the existing makeshift shelters. Not all makeshift sites are suitable for expansion, so UNHCR is moving ahead with the establishment and planning of new sites.

UNHCR has sent an assessment team to the countryside where some 78,000 Timorese have sought refuge. Many displaced are staying with relatives, while others are sheltering in huts, offices, church building and spontaneous camp sites. We are now delivering assistance to some of these people.

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.4: UNHCR Sets Up Camps

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.1: Recent Violence

June 2006

Recent violence in Timor-Leste has displaced about 100,000 people, with 65,000 sheltering in 40 squalid encampments in the capital, Dili, and a further 35,000 taking refuge in the countryside. A UNHCR assessment team visited the makeshift camps in Dili end May and reported the most critical humanitarian needs, aside from security, were food, clean water and shelter.

In a phased response to the crisis and as part of a joint UN effort, UNHCR deployed an emergency team to reinforce staff on the ground and is now airlifting in urgently needed supplies for some 30,000 displaced. The first flight, which arrived in Dili on June 5, brought 14 tonnes of lightweight family tents, plastic sheets and jerry cans from UNHCR stockpiles in Jordan.

UNHCR and its partners will use these items to establish new, planned camps for the displaced, where they can live in better conditions and assistance will be easier to deliver, until the security situation improves and they can return to their homes.

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.1: Recent Violence

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.2: UNHCR Airlift Underway

A Boeing 747 bearing fresh aid for victims of the recent unrest in Timor-Leste landed in the northern Australian city of Darwin on 7 June. Because the plane is too large to land at Dili airport, aid is being ferried by land and air from Darwin. A second B-747 loaded with emergency supplies arrived the following day.

In total, 400 tonnes of supplies from our regional Middle Eastern stockpiles are expected to be sent to Timor-Leste. Supplies include lightweight family tents, plastic sheeting, jerry cans, blankets and kitchen sets.

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.2: UNHCR Airlift Underway